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prairiemary



An eclectic blog on which appears daily one-thousand word essays on somethingorother.



Updated: 2017-11-19T08:37:15.080-07:00

 



FRAT BOY SEXUAL ETHICS

2017-11-19T00:11:40.829-07:00

When I was a young teen and rode the city bus to downtown, it would sometimes happen — if the bus were crowded — that I would feel a soft patting to my bottom without any idea who was doing it.  I suspected the nearest older man, who often studiously looked away.  It didn’t hurt, I wasn’t exposed, I couldn’t prove it, there was no cupping or attempt to get in the groove, but there it was.  Repeatedly.  People I told about it laughed.Today they are not laughing at George H.W. Bush.  For the naive, his fanny patting is just a sort of Uncle Doofus patronizing thing to do.  For the politically enflamed feminist the act is an atrocity, a pre-rape invasion of one’s body.  For the initiated kinks (those who explore the sexual edges) it is a very pale version of spanking.  For the sophisticated shrinks, famous people have enjoyed that particular perversion which came out of strict European practices like nursemaids who spanked their charges, maybe with their slipper or hairbrush (both good fetish objects), or school masters who believed in the cane — a more hard-core practice than spanking.  Paul Tillich and Winston Churchill are said to have been fond of being spanked.  Masters and Johnson said the best sex education for kids was seeing their dad fondly pat mom on the bottom while she washed dishes.  (There's a more recent and nicer trope about a man offering to dry the dishes while the women washes.)A grown man spanking a grown woman is a trope.  In the Fifties it was often in the movies.  In “Frenchie” — Joel McCrea is a sheriff trying to control an uppity madam and bar owner played by Shelley Winters.  There's a "cat fight" between women but that's a different trope.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frenchie.  The sheriff turns the madam over his knee.  In later films like “The Quiet Man”  www.imdb.com/title/tt0045061/  John Wayne’s woman, Maureen O’Hara, doesn’t respect him until he gives her a good spanking. This vid version is from "McClintock." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T12-qzPW9GgMy father loved these scenes and my mother played along, though I never saw him spank her.  He spanked us kids.  There was no suggestion of it being sexual until the last time he did it to me — I was fourteen, fully mature.  Even then, I don’t think we had the consciousness to understand why it was so disturbing.A good (effective) sexual kink should combine the physiological/neurological built-ins from during early life, with cultural titillation, with traditional conflicts like “the war between the sexes,” with more passing irritations like trying to get women to defer to men after WWII when women had been running the show.  But taken to extremes, a kink-supported spanking can look a lot like torture and far exceed the imaginations of most folks who have better things to think about than the vignettes screenwriters ponder, the ones often called “beats.”  Urk.One of the tropes that is as ubiquituous as breast-honking and fanny-patting is pretty vicious; it takes males as the victims.  I’m talking about crotch-kicking or kneeing.  It can be deployed in a script as a desperate defence by an attacked woman or it can be a sort of frat-boy joke with all the qualifications of being obscene, damaging, and provoking reactions of pain and embarrassment.  There is a bar franchise named for breast-honking (Hooters) but none for fanny-patting or spanking that I know of.  "Spankie's"?The crotch-kicking tropeWhen I was briefly teaching in a nearby small town, there was a twisted-up high-school kid whose sole-custody father was itinerant oil-field labor.  One lunch period I saw this unhappy kid systematically kicking in the crotch every boy he could get close to who was smaller.  The victims simply covered as best they could and fled.  They never reported to authorities.  I don't think they told their parents.  They were humiliated.  I took t[...]



MOORE AND HIS LITTLE SILVER GUN

2017-11-18T07:58:01.621-07:00

Moore and his Little Silver GunIt was a phrase I haven’t heard for a long time.  “If it bleeds, it breeds.”  For those who can’t figure it out, this is a statement that any woman who is old enough to menstruate is old enough for sex.   "Should be fucked."   The criteria precedes legal definitions of the “age of consent,” meaning when a child is mature enough to decide what to do.  It refers to sexual ethics that developed in times and places when people were so poor and endangered that if they didn’t produce babies as early as possible, the adults wouldn’t live long enough to raise them.  I don’t mean “send them to college,” I mean, keep them from starving to death.  Not all of people in that situation are in Third World places.  The idea is so deep in the survival imperative that it’s at a fleshly emotional level very hard to get at.  These conditions of survival still exist, esp. in the American South.  Young legal ages for marriage vary across the continent but are probably the lowest in the South.  This is not like the customs in countries where the woman may be taken into the man’s family as a child and raised there until she transitions from daughter to wife.  Often there are multiple wives, so the girl doesn’t stand alone against abuse.  “Breeding” youngsters is also an idea from when slaves were not just chattel but also cattle.  In the rez resort towns there used to be an influx of nice Minnesota girls every summer who came to serve in the “big hotels.”  They were called “the dry herd,” which is a reference to heifers who need to be bred.Reproduction-based ethics are reinforced by the idea that a man “owns” his wife and her children, the same way that he owns his cows.  This idea also lingers in US laws.  It is a bulwark against neighbors or even relatives intervening in cases of abuse.  The Bible, for those who take it as a guide, defends beatings and even stoning to control human chattel, without ever defining slavery.  The first humane society laws were used to protect children from abuse, though they had been written to prevent people from beating and starving their horses to death.Recent factors impact the situation.  One is the idea that a human being should be self-determining and “free.”  For a child entering adolescence this is a seductive idea.  If he or she is not happy or protected in the family, it encourages defiance, leaving, and attachment to strangers.The other unsettling force is chemical.  First the pill and other contraception which can take “getting pregnant” out of consideration, so that a girl can have as much sex as a boy without having a baby.  (Which is not to lessen the great good of a grown woman controlling her own body, even in marriage, even if her husband wants the “crop” of babies as though they were calves.)  And second are the many street drugs that eliminate consciousness and judgment, so that contraception that depends upon behavior (a daily pill, a condom) is not as useful as bodily modification: inserts under the skin, IUD’s, cutting or blocking the tubes of fertility in either sex.Decades ago my ex-step-granddaughter, convinced that the early death of her mother was due to the pill, relied on abortion, the worst measure possible.  The last time she got pregnant was by her high school classmate who specialized in using alcohol to get girls unconscious so he could rape them.  He had made half-a-dozen girls pregnant by the time he got to my ex-step-granddaughter.  His mother thought it was cute until I threatened to castrate him with the biology kit scissors I used for animal control projects.  I actually waved them at him and he was impressed.  The mother never made contact with me.  At that point the girl decided to live lesbian.   She died in a car accident not much later. This kind of convoluted and unreal reasoning[...]



THE HEAD-GRAB TROPE

2017-11-17T14:14:14.149-07:00

This definition by Lakota Girl is from urbandictionary.com, which is a lot more useful than Merriam-Webster if you’re hip and smart.  (There is a conventional literary definition of a “trope” as a literary device.)_______TROPE on the interwebs really refers to an often overused plot device. It can also be described as another variation on the same theme. TV shows, movies, comics, games, anime', & books are full of tropes & many rabid fan-sites now name & track said tropes with a self-explanatory title for each one.Not all tropes are bad, until Hollywood gets stuck on one.Q: Did you see "Brokeback Mountain"? A: That film just used the "Bury Your Gays" trope to make it dramatic. You know, where a gay character has to always die in the story.Girl: When is Hollywood gonna get tired of the "Friendly Neighborhood Vampire" trope? Guy: I blame Angel & Spike. Girl: I blame the Count on Sesame Street. Guy: Nah, Count Chocula totally invented that scene. ___I want to talk about two “tropes” relevant to the recent sexual antics of politicians, who deal in tropes all the time as persuasive rhetoric, not usually sexual at least overtly.  In the case of these two, they are actions but I don’t know what a fan site might call them in order to track them.One is the moment in films when the man grabs the woman’s head and deep-kisses her.  She almost invariably is taken by surprise, then pleased, and sometimes this trope is the beginning of an extended scene of heavy necking or even coitus.  But there are sometimes mockeries of this basic trope when it’s absurd:  grabbing the head of and deep kissing a robot or another species (“never kiss anything with three lips” — you know sheep jokes?) or an alien.  (Imagine deep kissing the Alien !!  She IS female and we don’t know how she gets inseminated or even needs to be, other than by the bodies of her victims, but she has “deep teeth.”)  I would like to see a montage of these “grabbing the head” moments over the decades.The fairy tale version of this, of course, is the prince kissing the Sleeping Beauty, which a Freudian would explain was a euphemized version of being initiated into penetrative sex, which is supposed to awake the princess to a life of delight.  It’s not explained how the prince learned to kiss like that.  Or what could ever have given Roy Moore the idea that he was a prince.An on-going twitter thread is investigating the trace elements of this photo code for the jpeg.Fascinating tell-tales.Al Franken used this trope to “fool around” in comedy skit mode where people are quite likely to go over the edge.  He also used the “grabbing the breasts” trope which comes from the American obsession with fetishized breasts which means they must be covered at all times — at least the nipples, the milk-extruders.  I knew an old cop who had to often arrest militant street-walkers and said he could bring them into line by threatening to “twist their tits” and maybe even doing it.  After all, they stick right out there in front and are often decorated to attract attention.A common expression is “getting her tit caught in a wringer.”  The sensitivity of the part is the key to the trope, as well as the sexual nature of how we treat nipples, though no one is inseminated or reproduces through their nipples and even men have them.  (Last night the version of the new “Hawaii 5-0” that I watched used the nipple trope when the hero’s mother, played by the usual genteel and poised Christine Lahti using battery jumper cables on the nipples of the bad guy to torture him.  Worse than clothespins.)  I do not recall seeing anyone’s tits get caught in a wringer in a movie.  It often refers to pushing into a situation with insufficient caution.  (Ahem.)  Or the idea that being "outstanding" is risky.Part of comedy is unexpectedness, also cruelty, being taboo, [...]



UURMaPA ARCHIVES AT ANDOVER-HARVARD THEOLOGICAL LIBRARY

2017-11-17T06:49:34.964-07:00

Whatever else has happened or might happen yet, there is no question that I’m part of the history of the Unitarian Universalist movement, no matter the twists and turns of the UUA or even the UUMA, which is the ministers’ group.  A subgroup of that group is the UURMaPA, which is for retired ministers and their spouses.  The relevance of this is that the “official” archives of this group are at the Andover-Harvard Theological Library.  Also archived there are the materials of the UUA, the UUSC (social concerns), and Beacon Press.  Possibly even the Meadville/Lombard library, at least in part.I hope they mean what they said which was, “We’re archivists; it’s our job to determine what’s useful, not yours.”  I don’t entirely trust their judgement of “useful,” but sending materials to them beats letting the boxes rot in the garage.  So I’ll make a case of “usefulness” for each batch I send in coming months.  (I would have to rent a UHaul to take the whole lot at once.)  One strong justification is that there are few records of sparsely populated stretches like the prairie, though the movement called "prairie humanism" is a strong source of UU ideas.  It takes a community of 2,000 to support even a fellowship with no minister.Window by Brent WarburtonFor the Browning Methodist ChurchOne collection I'll send is only quasi-UU and that is the record of the year I served as the pulpit supply for the Blackfeet Methodist Parish, a three-point charge in Browning, St. Marys, and Heart Butte, Montana.  Their original minister had done a runner, their newly called minister followed suit, but they knew I would stick since I was already here and in the Sixties had been part of the congregation.  A friend of mine, Brent Warburton, did the original stained glass windows that are a blooming marvel in a little rez town.  My ex-husband paid for one of the windows as a memorial to my in-laws.  Many small ties.  But I had to think about how a post-Xian UU minister could serve with integrity an assorted congregation that was supposed to be a Methodist mission to the Blackfeet.I decided that I would use their forms: a lectionary (1988-89 version) that supplied weekly four Biblical passages for topics that are then used by liturgical churches: Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist — maybe others.  The set includes a Psalm, an Old Testament passage, a New Testament passage, and a bit of the Gospels, loosely linked by theme.  It was an elegant intellectual challenge to compose a sermon that included references to all four.Then for the Order of Service, I followed the traditional service pattern of the Mass, which I had studied for my thesis in seminary, but filled it with images that were local, often simply what we saw: cows, wind, mountains, grass, hawks.  They fit a Biblical metaphorical context easily.  The congregation had no idea that I was doing such brainy stuff behind the scenes, but they really liked the results.It seems like sending an interdenominational, multi-dimensional archive back to Boston (some say the birthplace of American Unitarianism) would be a good thing.  Too often a denomination is a guarded, walled community without thought for how it might contribute to a more universal world.  I’ll send both the sermons and the order of service.  They amount to a couple of legal boxes, maybe.Some of my prairie sermons are collected in a book, “Sweetgrass and Cottonwood Smoke,” which I’ll send.  (Published by the Moosemilk Press, an arm of the Edmonton UU Church when served by John Marsh.)  Reflections on my Clinical Pastoral Education are also collected into a small booklet, which I’ll send.  I presume the UUA has sent the account of Bill Holway’s several-year effort to extend fellowships into organizations big enough to support a minister, commonly called “churches.”  I’ll send them[...]



EYE SPY

2017-11-16T21:23:22.781-07:00

The way I used to roll on road trips was to rise at dawn, stop halfway there for a bacon/egg/hashbrown breakfast with lots of coffee, and pull into the destination midmorning with my head full of plans.  Now I rise at the regular time (2nd time, maybe 9AM) wait for the roads to thaw, eat oatmeal, drink two cups coffee, and stop halfway to the destination in order to pee.  Sigh.  Luckily, there’s a rest stop halfway to Great Falls.  That’s my whole plan.My appointment was at 1:30.  It went well.  This is the Eye Clinic of Great Falls, not the Great Falls Clinic Vision Center where my opthamologists have left the clinic for the third time.  The Eye Clinic of Great Falls, new to me, is a small downtown family style group as contrasted with a massive and rather silly building out in the fields past Benefis Hospital.  They hire bossy young women to push around those lesser species who are patients. Dr. Josh HagerI print-bombed Dr. Josh Hager with my post about eyes.  He wasn’t defensive, he didn’t discount it, he asked me intelligent questions about me and my eyes.  When I told him which eye stain I’m so allergic to that it seals my eyes shut for 24 hours and I joked that would mean I’d have to stay overnight with him, no matter what his wife might say, he assured me she would help anyone who needed it.  She’s from “The Knees” which is not exactly a town, but an area in North Central Montana sort of NW of Carter.  Historic Métis country, actually.  He himself is from Texas hill country.He just didn’t use the dye.  I was afraid he’d be upset that I ordered some glasses frames from Zenni, (Chinese, super cheap) but he said he’d done the same.  So it went.  He explained a lot of things without patronizing, and went through my 3-ring binder of retina photos and readings from older clinic visits, saying which ones were really useful to him.  He took a couple more but was reassuring.  This is a place of country people without pretension, who nevertheless know what they’re doing.  He worried about me driving home with dilated eyes, but I went up to Jiffy Lube for an oil change and that gave time for recovery.  The mechanic was a cheerful girl with long hair who didn’t call me “dear” until I was leaving.  (I'm not the kind of old person who is frail and thin, but rather a shiny apple oldster which deceives people -- they think I'm jolly.)  The male oil changers down in the hole under the pickup kept muttering about how old the pickup was.  They had to use a mallet to get the old oil filter off.  100,000 miles since the last time I was in.By the time I was headed north on the highway, later than usual, it was beginning to be dusk and dilated eyes were just the thing.  I’d been worrying about this trip — I hate driving in Great Falls — but now it’s over.  I’ll try not to stall for 100.000 miles again.Driving into a November sunset on the Montana prairie is like driving into a Turner painting of a sea on fire.  The sun was low on my left and projecting the pickup shadow onto the land to the right with a kind of sundog/rainbow coming out of the top.  A huge rolling ominous storm shelf had been pushing over the Rockies all day and now it was indigo with opal sky above it that gradually darkened into nimbus of no color.[...]



THE EYES HAVE IT

2017-11-16T07:44:23.496-07:00

Somehow retirement generates so many projects that things get dropped out.  I had intended to write a list of concerns for the new eye doctor I’ll visit at the end of the week, but didn’t get around to it.  So maybe I can double-up by posting the list to this blog.  It will be a relief from politics.GLAUCOMAI have several danger signs in my situation, things that are often associated with the development of glaucoma in later years.  Basically they come from all the systems diminishment of aging.“Although there are several types of glaucoma, the most common is open-angle, which accounts for roughly 90 percent of all cases. This form of glaucoma occurs when the drainage canals in the angle formed by the cornea and iris become clogged. The blockage causes a gradual buildup of aqueous humor, the transparent fluid occupying the anterior chamber of the eye. When too much fluid accumulates inside the eye, subsequent pressure on the optic nerve causes the fibers to degenerate. Open-angle glaucoma develops slowly and sometimes without noticeable vision loss for many years. “Glaucoma has been referred to as ‘the silent thief of sight,’" Dr. Assil says. "It’s all about early detection of the fiber loss." “Associated precursors:Extreme near-sightednessOptical disc that connects the optic nerve to the retina is a bit off centerMother had glaucoma, controlled with medsHigh blood pressureDiabeteshttps://www.thedoctorstv.com/articles/957-glaucomaTHE FRONT OF THE EYEReplacement of the lens when it is clouded by cataracts in old age is almost like the craze for tonsillectomy was in my childhood.  Docs here specialize in it and claim universal success, but I hear quiet complaints now and then.  It is also possible to transplant corneas which can restore the sight of those that scratches or infection have clouded.  An aged Blackfeet friend whose sight was damaged by trachoma in the great epidemic of the early 20th century was able to see again.We have learned that past middle age, as we lose muscle strength everywhere, the tiny muscles that pull the eye lens to change focus also get stiff and slack.  Then we need reading glasses.  I use “computer glasses” which are set permanently by prescription to a distance of 18” and also have a blue tint meant to protect against damage from the constant exposure to the light of computer screens.  I don’t know how scientific that is, but it doesn’t interfere and seems like a good precaution.Direct sales of Chinese eyeglasses has been a bonanza for me.  (I’m very fond of round lenses, like Harry Potter.)  My last optometrist-provided variable-focus spectacles cost close to $400.  Now I buy from zenni.com and don’t bother with variable focus because the glasses are so cheap that I can keep a basket of them, color-coded for near or far.  I’m on the computer or reading or sewing almost all the time, but I keep an old-fashioned variable-focus eyeglasses in the pickup that is tinted yellow for better perception in low light or snow dazzle.  DRY EYE SYNDROMETo work properly eyes need to be continuously wet, which is a problem when staring at a screen, because the lids are like reverse windshield wipers spreading the tears over the eyeball.  If one is not blinking, as is the tendency when watching a screen, the surface of the cornea dries out.  Another case is when driving in a car with the heat blasting or the window wind hitting the eyes.  Montana wind sweeps eyes when outdoors.http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/dryeye-syndrome.htmA few years ago I had red sore eyes and what felt like grit in them.  I was alarmed because when I first met Bob Scriver in 1961 (and the reason I was drawn into his life so quickly) was that he was suffering from herpes simplex keratitis, which is to say that herpes virus had attached to his corneas.  If it burr[...]



ADRIFT BEFORE A WATERFALL

2017-11-15T03:17:23.468-07:00

There are two reasons for optimism about the future.  One is beautifully described by Robert Reich in this vid.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOGTLvxEKMMThe point is that if Trump, in one final act of oblivious slapstick, stepped into an open manhole and disappeared out the sewer system to somewhere unknown, we’d hardly miss him.  Except for the entertainment value.  We’d have a little extra energy since it wouldn’t be necessary to block and evade his tiny efforts to be important.  But he isn’t acting as an effective president and we should be grateful because if he were effective, he might be dangerous.  Keep him busy arguing you-did/you-didn’t with Putin.The other thing is that the rule of law is not a monument, meant to celebrate something from the past forever, to be big and obvious.  The rule of law is written words and can be renegotiated.  But not frivolously, which is why there are a lot of procedures written into the law.  In a democracy the final version represents the “will of the people” for the simple reason that otherwise the laws will be disregarded.  Those who cheat and lie to pass laws will be discredited.Now we can see that the world has changed enough to demand some rethinking, like about the boundaries of voting districts and whether it isn’t time to dump the whole idea of the electoral college anyway.  Too bad that we can’t just have people vote on some version of Twitter:  one person, one vote.  Too bad that we’ve discovered that such a system would be easily hackable.  And that it would become a huge database useful for finding people who don’t necessarily want to be found.  And that it would mean that anyone without access to the Internet would be screwed out of their citizenship.In the field of ethics there are basic strategies:  Where you are coming from, your essential nature from the past Where you are going, what you aspire to What are your basic rules/laws, the non-negotiables What are your basic principles, which are more abstract but the source of rules/lawsWhat virtue (arete) is illustrated by the best peopleChanging times mean that all five of the above may shift.  For instance, the essential nature of the origin of America can no longer be assumed to be invading Europeans.  But neither can the origin story be assumed to be ended now, because it is primordial, far earlier than written history, and we’re still finding out things from DNA and fossils.  Shifts of point of view mean women, Chinese, African-Americans, Muslims, and children must be included.  And all the others we haven’t heard about yet.Also, as we go global, we must consider the essential nature of the places from which people come.  For instance, post-Columbus Europe is a tale of carnage, greed, and the struggle to invent nations.  Canadians and Africans will more easily understand that government is often conflated with commerce.  (Hudson’s Bay Co, De Beers Diamonds)  Italians and French can understand what it means to mix religion with government.Where we are going is the most difficult question to answer.  Too many people think that we should aspire to the past, though if the past had worked then, it wouldn’t have changed.  Yet, how do we define something we’ve never conceived of before?The problem with rules and laws are at least two-fold:  definitions are crucial, as those know who wrestle with issues of conception, ensoulment, the emergence of a human being from a mass of cells, early identification of damaged fetuses.  These are entwined with technology, because otherwise we would not know much of this.The other problem (related to ignoring laws that people don’t like) is the refusal of authorities to identify or prosecute cases.  This is happening in Washington DC as much as o[...]



ALL THE DUSTY ARCHIVES

2017-11-14T04:25:41.575-07:00

Princess Elizabeth at her Coming of Age AddressBiographical films about famous people keep cropping up on Netflix, because the venue is so well-suited to the genre, esp. the bios that are too long to be one movie and too short to be a year-long “show.”  The times are forcing us all to search history for survival clues.  We are searching for arete.  If the film about the Trump generations from the first German immigrant patriarch to the present scandal had been seen before the election, not even Putin could have made a difference.  (These movies are all on Netflix.)But more interesting to me is the series called “The Royal House of Windsor” which begins with the WWI necessity of finding the name “Windsor” to replace the actual German names and heritage of the “English” king.  There are six chapters to this story.  The theme is survival of the English throne.  It unfolds within and throughout the larger world dynamics, so that it’s not just the story of one family.The first chapter is particularly interesting because it includes an overview of newly released letters from the archives of the Queen.  The archives of private communication is another theme and phenomenon of our times, which makes Banting’s idea of an archive as a literary genre particularly useful.  Much of this archive is handwritten letters between relatives, spouses, and quasi-officials trying to solve problems like finding a new surname to “found” a new dynasty.   Family interests clash with political necessities.  There is treachery.  Of course, it's all imaginary — the people stay the same, the fantasies shift.  The film intersperses closeups of pen nibs inscribing words onto heavy paper, the pens becoming more modern over time.  It gives us photographs of the actual letters.  These are educated people who write well, but that’s not a requirement for archiving.“Manhunt,” the fictionalized version of the Unabomber’s story, uses occasional shots of relevant documents, mixes archives — which are real and original — with “story” to lend it authenticity.  The Unabomber’s world was mostly print, so the approach works well.  Anyway, Evidence is a kind of archive, so the masses of materials that become legal boxes of case files on CSI shows could be seen as a multi-author literary event.Native Americans who come from oral cultures where the archives are within the people, nevertheless have sometimes discovered that exploring the “settler” (the Canadian term for Euros) archives can be useful.  A powerful example is Adolf Hungry Wolf’s aggregation of document texts, photos, and comment in the four volume Good Medicine books.  Bob Scriver’s lesser collection of photos and comment in his book, “The Blackfeet: Artists of the Northern Plains” is an archive because an inventory is a kind of archive.  Paul Seseequasis’ coming book of photos of Northern indigenous people between the world wars and earlier is possible in part because of foto archives at places like the University of Lethbridge, which holds all of the Magee photos of Blackfeet.  Purely epistolary books — collections of correspondence — is an established literary category, a kind of archive.  There are famous exchanges between close friends or lovers.  Robert Bigart’s “Letters from the Rocky Mountain Indian Missions”  (the Letters of Father Philip Rappagliosi) ought to be an entering wedge into the huge body of communications between early missionaries and Rome.  It includes sent-along artifacts and is almost entirely unexplored, at least partly because they are in French, Spanish, Latin, even German, and there are few scholars with the language skills to translate them.  The attention of the tribal people has been concentra[...]



ARCHIVE AS A LITERARY GENRE

2017-11-13T05:16:20.840-07:00

This discussion is a cross-fertilization between two articles.  One is in Cultural Anthropology written by the jury for the Gregory Bateson Book Prize:  Lucas Bessire, Paul Eiss, Amira Mittermaier and Karen Strassler.   https://culanth.org/fieldsights/1230-reflections-on-ethnographic-writing-today in Cultural Anthropology The other is a1986 article by Pamela Banting in archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/11370  that proposes an archive itself can be treated as a literary genre.“The Gregory Bateson Book Prize is awarded by the Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA), the largest section of the American Anthropological Association. The Bateson Prize reflects the SCA's mandate to promote theoretically rich, ethnographically grounded research.”  The essay by the jury is new: Oct. 16, 2017.  Banting’s article dates to 1986, more than a year earlier.  And yet it reads like an answer to the later plea for innovative forms to meet the demands of deeper, sharper and more ambiguous issues.Here are my fav sentences and phrases from Banting:“deconstructing traditional ideas of the book and the author — the creative, subversive powers of the archive”“the silent labyrinth of the archive”“speech has long since expired at the cave mouth”“the voice of the absence of presence”  (tapes )“The mirror world of the archives (the pictographic cave). . .invites the gaze and the gesture (of writing).”“the text spills over in excess of the author. . . .but the author herself is not wanted — dead or alive.  Absence is the mark of her presence.”“The researcher looks not for the essence, the uniform, the original, the definitive statement, but the trace, the residual remainder, the inconsistent detail, the wild deviation from the usual response, the point where the correspondence falters, where documents have been lost, destroyed or otherwise concealed. . .”“This radical dispersal of the author (paradox of the archive that it poses as a collection while creating in actuality a diaspora) annuls her copyright.  Neither the name nor the book is any longer her property.”“In the archival vault, writing violently asserts its kinship with death.”Banting quotes Jacque Derrida from a chapter called “The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing.” in the book entitled “Grammatology”  “The idea of the book is the idea of a totality, finite or infinite, of the signifier; this totality of the signifier cannot be a totality, unless a totality constituted by the signifier exists it, supervises its inscriptions and its signs, and is independent of it in its ideality.  The idea of a book, which always refers to a natural totality, is profoundly alien to the sense of writing.”Derrida is thinking of the codex — pages between “boards.”  An archive is shelves.  And then there is the blog, which is a sort of archive.  Writing is an act of the moment as the instrument creates a record.  Pen scratching, keyboard clicking.   Archiving looks across all the years, the instruments, the kinds of records.  “It's generally recognized that the first blog was Links.net, created by Justin Hall, while he was a Swarthmore College student in 1994. Of course, at that time they weren't called blogs, and he just referred to it as his personal homepage. It wasn't until 1997 that the term “weblog” was coined.”  https://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2011/03/a-brief-history-of-blogging/Perhaps the Bateson Book Prize committee is also trapped into limiting themselves to codex versions of manuscripts, as produced by presses.  (Page impressers)  They received a hundred submissions, but if they were open to internet material, there would be thousands.  It would become unmanageabl[...]



NOTED IN PASSING

2017-11-12T06:06:29.688-07:00

Until college my life was sheltered, naive, and conscientious — mostly.  Actually, it was in college, too.  I walked through all sorts of unconventional stuff without really understanding what was going on.  For instance, my roommate my senior year was AC/DC and one of her profs was regularly screwing her on the floor of his office.  I was not aware of that.  I was impressed by her black underwear, as I hadn’t know underwear could be anything but white.Browning was different — the Blackfeet reservation.  Bob Scriver was in the habit of saying “fuck” and “sunnavabitch,” so I started saying those words, too.  He became very angry and forbade me to use them, but then he stopped as well.  Was that sexist?  Once we became intimate, I slept with him until 3AM (not a euphemism) when I had set the alarm and walked the two blocks home up the alley.  Being a rez, there were generally people around.  Indians knew, whites didn’t or pretended they didn’t.  It shows how layered society always is.The worst language, jokes and sexual behavior came from the teachers, all of them white.  No one ever “came on” to me, because I was designated as taken by a man with local power.  The art teacher in the adjoining apartment was not so lucky.  The coach and the music teacher pounded on her door late at night, demanding sex.  I went to a Cut Bank bar with her once.  Never again.  I became pretty good at raunchy repartee, but not with "Indians" — just other teachers.  Anyway, I didn't interact with Indians much except at school and in the shop — certainly not when they were drinking.  Since Bob was the town judge and I often acted as informal bailiff because court was wherever the cops brought the offenders for trial, I knew about the things that went on, big and little.  I became hard to shock.  But it was much later that I understood the complexity of "Indians" as mixtures of tribes and histories.When it was clear about 1993 that I was never going to be hired on the rez again and I had run out of money, I went back to Portland for the second time and begged my mother for shelter which she did not want to give me.  I went on unemployment and looked for work, though I didn’t know how.  I registered at employment services and visited civil service, etc.  Finally, when I reported to unemployment, the clerk saw my previous address was Browning and she thought I was Blackfeet.  “You get a job and you get it NOW and you take ANYTHING that is offered.”I’d been afraid to take temp jobs or downscale jobs for fear it would look bad on a resumé, but now I went to a temp service.  “I have a job where I can’t get girls to stick,” the placement lady said.  “They’re a little vague about it but I think it’s because it’s pretty working class and maybe a little rough.  Maybe you could handle it.” It was an electrical transformer rewind and repair business.  The transformers were huge, used in paper mills.  The guts of them is copper wire wound around and around a frame, then varnished and baked in giant ovens.  The employees were all Vietnamese, small tense men with shared names.  I got into trouble for talking to them.  There was only one other woman, older, a little tough, but pretty in a downscale way.  I was supposed to do the payroll and related stuff.  The head of the company was back east.  His photo showed a fat pompous guy in a suit. While he drove home in slow traffic, he called the Portland office to “see how things were going.”  And indulge in innuendo.  He got aggravated with me for being dumb.The engineers were from the former Soviet union and had no degrees[...]



SAM VAKNIN EXPLAINS

2017-11-11T07:48:36.840-07:00

Serial killers and mass murderers are supposed to be inscrutable.  Sam Vaknin specializes in explaining.  In his pedantic, carefully pronounced, measured way, complete with literary references, he unravels their black guts as he sits alone before his video camera.  http://samvak.tripod.com/serialkillers.html  He frankly claims to be a narcissist and surveys that territory with considerable force and clarity.He’s not thinking in a vacuum.  He begins this discussion with quotes.  I'm using a different font for him.“Both serial and mass murderers are overwhelmed with a profound sense of alienation and frustration stemming from their feelings that no matter how fierce their ambitions may be (and they are, most often, among the most ambitious of men), no matter what they might do, they could not achieve the place in society to which they aspired. They aim high, these multiple murderers: they have not, like Durkheim’s contented man, accepted their station in life...In such a milieu , a sense of personal missions begins to incubate.” (Elliott Leyton, “Hunting Humans”, 1986)"I have walked the same path as God. By taking lives and making others afraid of me, I become God's equal. Through killing others, I become my own Master. Through my own power I come to my own redemption. Once I seen the miracle light, I didn't never again have to fear or obey the Rules of no Man or no God." (Serial killer Donald "Pee Wee" Gaskins in his autobiography “Final Truth”)________Serial killers are not quite the same as mass murderers, esp. shooters and — even more so snipers, shooters from a high distance — who are distant, impersonal.  We can understand crimes of passion, we understand that serial murderers are insane, but what about the hardly-known person who goes where there is a crowd and shoots as many as he can?  Is he a narcissist? _________. . . In a pathologically narcissistic civilization - social anomies proliferate. Such societies breed malignant objectifiers - people devoid of empathy - also known as “narcissists". . . .Most spree shooters are loners. They are either schizoid (with deficient interpersonal skills) or paranoid and even paranoid-schizophrenic (psychotic, delusional). Their dysfunction is all-pervasive: their family life, career, romantic relationships, professional and material accomplishments are all adversely affected by their mental mayhem. They feel excluded and shunned and are profoundly ashamed of and frustrated with their inadequacies and with their sadistic, self-destructive, suicidal, and self-defeating "inner judge" (inner, introjected "voices" or narrative). This frustration builds up and results in pent-up aggression which ultimately manifests as furious, uncontrollable rage. The typical spree shooter is in love with all things violent: guns, the military, police work, virulent racism, and crime. _________A strange paradox is that in the midst of a culture obsessed with dysfunctions, the mass shooter feels isolated but sits in front of the TV or computer screen rehearsing these shared ideas in the most dramatic terms that screen writers can devise.  He has no empathy for real people, but can easily identify with damaged persons who seem to have so much power.  This is why it’s hard to predict who will explode, who always seemed so normal, since they fit the larger culture so well.  Even extreme ravings don’t stand out in some contexts._______________Since spree shooters have no one to share their emotions with, these tectonic and volcanic shifts get shunted (displaced): when the spree shooter seeks to explain to himself why he is so angry constantly, he blames it upon his ultimate victims and their behavior or i[...]



INSTITUTIONS VS. COMMUNITIES

2017-11-10T06:04:12.674-07:00

When institutions fail, can communities compensate?I’m defining institutions as organized, hierarchical, employing, rule-defined bodies of people.  And then communities are simply people informally gathered by proximity or affinity.  So a person could be a registered and active Republican (institutional) or simply a person with conservative preferences but who is not active, registered or voting (community).  A person could be a formal member of a congregation who pledges and serves on committees (institutional), or simply a person with religious views who might pray, but doesn’t attend services (community).Institutions name their members, perhaps receive funds from them, have specific goals, and usually have a name for themselves as a group.  I take it that the two major political parties and all the Protestant denominations as well as the Catholics are institutions.  Also, Trump himself is an institution, a corporation, and so are the RNC and the DNC.  The media, which is a spectrum of institutions, reports and analyzes as though these are the only players.But then something comes along like this election night and a whole lot of people come out of the woodwork who are part of the undefined and unnamed community of voters.The invention of written records made possible two structured systems.  One is the rule of law and the other is bookkeeping of assets.  They are quite parallel except that the rule of law is meant to be public and sheltered from motives at variance with the law; but bookkeeping can be secret and double, with a second institutional system underground.  This means that the rule of law is often in pursuit of bookkeeping records, esp. the secret underground systems.  The institutions of public nations and private but international corporations can be in opposition to each other.The advent of the internet weakened the laws of nations and strengthened the bookkeeping conspiracies of corporations.  The voting public of democracies sense this and suspect that there is a huge secret, incorporated faux nation controlling everything from “underneath,” meaning secretly and in their own interest regardless of public good.  Some thought it was historically religious and others spoke of mafia, crime syndicates.  Some thought the United Nations was part of it and most people knew there were ways to hide wealth in secret, outside the law, but dependable offshore institutions.  A major part of the movie industry pursues these ideas.Imagine two public institutions, the binary political parties, with connected communities within and between them so they are intent on maintaining the  unified status quo for their private reasons.  Along comes Trump, promising to reveal everything and force change.  This happened, but not as anyone expected because Trump was so clumsy, so enamoured of a video game view of the world, that he so offended the community at large that they became determined to examine his secret life.  This was very easy with the internet, which recorded everything and was accessible to the public.  It was shocking.  His bad business practices were the least of it.Once community interests broke the rule of law shields of institutions, moral imperatives and motivated individuals withdrew their loyalties from corporations back to nations, thus “leaking”.  Rather more like an artesian spring bursting out.Now add the power of ideas.  Futurists hint that new sources of energy, local and not resource-based, will reconfigure wealth, ending fossil fuel moguls.  But I’m thinking about new ways of living -- like a kind of housing that is not balloon construction, more like the cement/plastic foam bl[...]



WESTERN ART AND ARCHITECTURE: Can it endure?

2017-11-09T08:58:27.070-07:00

The quickest way to get you into the world I inhabited in the Sixties is to give you this url link, though it's a bit too modern. https://westernartandarchitecture.com  Western (“cowboys and Indians”) art was embryonic in those days and so was the enormous wealth that has captured it.  A few men hung Charlie Russell paintings in their board rooms and Buffalo Bill had a “lodge” that was pretty nice, but particularly in the northern West of the prairie, things were still basic.  The lifestyle business — as invented by Hugh Hefner — hadn’t developed, but it was beginning.  In those days the wheeler/dealers traveled in heavy cars, the kind that rodeo hands drive among events with saddles in the trunks.  They showed up at the studio, came in slow and lazy, had a little coffee, told a few stories, and — after planting some teasers — ushered us out to take a look at the paintings in their trunks, treasures left in chicken houses because no one valued them.  It occurs to me now that many of these fellows (always male) were gay, partly because the pill hadn’t been invented yet and same/same was safe/safe without pregnancies and the love-smitten.  Anyway, the point wasn’t flesh, it was merch.  Still, human patterns of trade persist across the aeons and the combination of roadways with trading posts goes back to the Silk Roads, the Mississippi River and before.  Gradually, here and there but mostly in the SW, the traveling dealer managed to start galleries.  Historical societies and big shots recognized that art could signal importance, wealth, and culture.  The farthest south our “range” went was Cody, where the “Buffalo Bill” was emerging from rich East Coast people who had hobby ranches.  Like the Vanderbilts.  The farthest north we ranged was Calgary, where Colonel Harvie was just assembling the Glenbow Foundation.  We weren't in the real profit belt.It’s two generations after those early days who now subscribe to this magazine.  In the early days of Western art, it was local and middle class, so that art was sentimental and congratulatory of the founders and pioneers.  A certain amount of guilt crept into that as social reformation movements pointed out that all those pretty paintings of indigenous people did not lift them out of poverty and hanging their traditional clothes and containers on the wall didn’t actually honor them. Let's look at the articles portraying artists.  Bill Anton (billantonstudio.com) is a fundamentalist.  “I knew instinctively that civilization was not built on subjective pseudo-intellectual dreck but on hard work that harkened back to the past. It was obvious to me that the current art trends were bankrupt, no matter what the museum elites said,” he explains.So these stories and gorgeous photos now have a “spiritual” dimension and protestations of high culture in the European representational context.  They still have nothing to do with rez life or economic struggles to survive.  I smiled at the rhetoric of Anton whose chronicler declares grandly that he taught “his mind’s eye to recognize the spontaneous elemental energy flowing through a scene. A born-again Christian, he says his life has been divinely directed, but his quest to get at the truth of his subject is an ongoing mortal struggle for which there are no shortcuts.”These fabulous houses made of sheets of glass and corten steel, timbers and stone, are sometimes described as “temples” which is a dog-whistle when you’re speaking of wealth.  Rather like today’s churches, they stand empty most of the year, inhabited only by caretakers, which is a [...]



THE CLENCHING OF AMERICA

2017-11-08T04:59:06.584-07:00

Reports of chinook winds beginning in East Glacier last night were so welcome that I didn’t plug in the extra electric heater in the bathroom and I set the floor furnace thermostat a little low.  When I woke up, it was nine degrees outside and fifty inside, a little lower than that 65 I usually maintain in the daytime.  The day is bright and clear — no wind, road report says half the highway to Conrad is clear; cats are outside prowling the snow.I’m a bit giddy from waking up expecting (half-hoping) to turn on the computer and find out Trump has defected, asked for asylum, been mysteriously killed by a handkerchief or umbrella.  In fact, the world has been so preposterous lately, that I’m thinking way outside reality myself.  I have some new rules to offer.1.  No one can be president without passing a GED (General Equivalence Diploma) test, even if they went to a prestigious college, esp. if a generous donation was made to the college while they were attending.  The test shall emphasize citizenship.2.  No one can serve in either the house or the senate if they make more than $100,000.  Millionaires and billionaires are automatically disqualified.  (I'm thinking about lawyers.  Lately doctors have been equally peculiar.  Maybe clergy.)3.  Nepotism laws will be enforced:  no offspring and no spouses may be hired by the politicians and the fiction that family can manage a “blind trust” will not be allowed.4.  The laws pretending that corporations are people will be struck down.  Shell corporations will no longer exist.  LLC’s are outlawed.5.  Religious institutions and political institutions will be conflated — both simply institutions that serve and inspire the people.  A code of ethics will be devised for them, based on the US constitution.  Taxes will be based on transparency, not sacrality or prestige.  Holiness is its own reward and cannot be taxed nor confined to an institution.6.  National service for everyone — doesn’t have to be military combat but can be military support.  Domestic Infrastructure rebuilding counts as combat, particularly elements of transportation like railroads, highways and bridges.  (This is defensible in terms of possible invasion.  Think like Eisenhower.)  We already use military resources for catastrophic natural disasters.7.  Total rethinking of the Presidential obligations and accesses.  No longer one-person/one-click initiating of nuclear strikes.  ("Nuclear war" is not listed on Amazon no matter the color of your VISA card.  It is not an economic perk.)8.  The Flathead Valley (Missoula/Kalispell) boasts of being only fifteen minutes from Montana.  We should honor them by moving the western boundary of the state to the Rockies.  This is merely gerrymandering rollback.  (The Flathead was originally supposed to be part of Idaho.  At the moment there is a voting district that is bisected by the Rockies, clearly an effort to confine and divide reservation voting, which is usually Democratic.)9.  Total rethinking of what legal marriage means, particularly in terms of profits and obligations under the law.  What are all these trophy wives going to do as the cranky old billionaires march off to prison?  What can they keep as “theirs”?  How do they testify about what they knew and when they knew it?  The “sanctity” of marriage and the fantasy of becoming “one person” is pretty well undermined by powerful people who marry multiple times and not for the sake of alliances between families or the protection of children.  Mor[...]



INTELLECTUALS, THE MIDDLE CLASS, AND ALL THAT JAZZ

2017-11-07T05:08:25.781-07:00

Enrobed for the wedding of the Rev. Annie FoersterAn entanglement of terms keeps making trouble for me with friends, relatives, and readers.  One term is “middle class” and the other is “intellectual.”  So trying to think about “middle class intellectuals” is pretty problematic.  Googling brought up all sorts of additional entanglements.  Here are samples of what I found (without links, but easily found).“An intellectual is a person who engages in critical thinking, research, and reflection about society and proposes solutions for its normative problems. Some gain authority as public intellectuals.  Coming from the world of culture, either as a creator or as a mediator, the intellectual participates in politics either to defend a concrete proposition or to denounce an injustice, usually by rejecting, producing or extending an ideology, and by defending a system of values.”  The above is a pretty good description of what I thought I signed on for by joining the “learned ministry” of the UUA.  I’m not sure our present society — which is mirrored by the sociological bourgeois of our society we talk about without defining —will allow such a class.  They seem reluctant to define politicians that way.HISTORY:  “The contemporary intellectual class originated from the intelligentsiya of Tsarist Russia ( c. 1860s–1870s), the social stratum of those possessing intellectual formation (schooling, education, Enlightenment), and who were Russian society's counterpart to the German Bildungsbürgertum and to the French bourgeoisie.”“The intelligentsia is a status class of educated people engaged in the complex mental labours ... In their status-class functions, the intellectuals were associated with the cultural .... In contemporary usage, the denotations and connotations of the term Intelligentsia include the intellectuals and the managerial middle-class …”“As a status class, the intelligentsia includes artists, teachers, and academics, writers, journalists, and the literary hommes de lettres. Historically, the political role of the intelligentsia (the production of culture and ideology) varies between being either a progressive influence or a regressive influence upon the development of their societies.”  These two passages are roughly descriptive of most UU parishioners.  Two categories are missing in other denominations of comparable status: medicine/science, mathematics.  STEM.  But including these folks (religious skeptics) is often schismatic.  That’s not my problem.  My problem is resentment of intellectuals within the middle class, which CAN be activated without involving any religion.  But the resentment is often mixed with hierarchically endorsed respect and high expectations, esp. scientists, including doctors.  I was not exempt from that confusion and still wrestle with it.  I have a special affinity with others who try to figure it out.  This equation or dynamic or whatever it is has grown far more complex now that so many “intellectuals” operate on the terms of the French philosophers who deconstruct the world.  It’s a renewal and very useful, but still a blunt instrument.A related complication is the redrawing of one of the boundaries of the middle class, that of propriety/respectability.  It just happens that ignoring those restrictions have been claimed as an entitlement of intellectuals, parallel to the entitlements of the very wealthy to ignore moral limits.  Highest classes and lowest classes share that.  I'm talking about sex, crime, drugs.Another is the idea tha[...]



HOW I ESCAPED THE MIDDLE CLASS HENHOUSE

2017-11-06T11:40:28.102-07:00

This morning I overslept until 10AM again, because of being up for a while in the middle of the night.  But this morning it was only 9AM because the delusion of saving daylight has ended for the season.  The only consequence was for the indoor cats because I was sleeping so hard that I didn’t hear them knocking on the cat flap to come in, but the weather — post blizzard — has also changed to bright sun and they enjoyed the dazzling snow.Having punched my way out of the middle class from the inside and lying flat for a long time like an exhausted chick, I’m upright now and fluffy feathered but already the hawk of age is bearing down on me.  My original cohort: classmates, former students, cousins and playmates are all in their seventies now.  They have stayed in chicken house of the middle class after a lifetime of preparing for old age, some of them in jobs they have hated for decades, and not always ending with as much income as they had expected.  Their children have turned out every-which-way.My old bosses, my Sixties bosses and husband on the rez, and even the animal control realm and my half-in/half-out denomination are mostly dead.  I’ll talk about the context of the American West separately.  I want to reflect on how all these categories are Middle Class and why I didn’t stick in any of them, partly because of them pretending to be what they weren’t.  (Not all deception is innocent hypocrisy.)  Partly because of roosters who are all flash.  Partly because of blood-sucking weasels. (And that’s enough of THAT metaphor, said the big red hen.)I am NOT of the generation that stigmatizes the Middle Class.  Rather, I’m Class X (much education, little money) and point out that there are plural middle classes that we pretend are one thing, admirable, mostly for marketing purposes if you admit that politics is really the same as marketing.  It’s not just Putin who knows how to use a data shadow and every attempt to warn the chickens I know (“The sky is falling!”) has been ignored.  (“Try not to think of a white chicken,” said Lakoff.)There have been casualties and shortfalls in my plan.  I’m happily located in a house I truly enjoy in spite of complaints, but the neighbors are changing, the nearest doctors and hospitals are failing, and I’m dependent on the unreliable pickup.  But UPS is thriving, the Internet is my city, and once again I feel as though I’ve arrived at a theory of everything.  it’s disconcerting that there are as many tribal people struggling incoming through the shell so they can be middle class as there are “white” (some of them Indio) people hoping to avoid the white middle class by moving to the rez.  Both demographics thought that education was the same as money and tried to use class credits to buy everything, which ended with the commodification of the nation, the rez, the land itself.  Meaning was strangled.  “Look over there!”  African-Americans and Asian-Americans are struggling into the middle class in their various ways: religious affiliation, technical expertise, and high academic theory.  The “underclass” was a lot more interesting, maybe because they are a service-based industry, not afraid of physical contact.  Or weaponization:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIzIx8bYUUY  (What?  You didn't think beauty pageants were part of the underclass?  Trump knew.)Winter came abruptly here, which it often does, and it plunged waaaaay down because it is an Arctic air bubble moving across the continent.  You can’t see [...]



SELLING THE CODEX

2017-11-05T04:01:07.752-07:00

“Codex” is the technical name for paper with marks bound inside two cardboard, cloth and or heavy coated paper covers the same size.  In other words:  books.  The process of selling them includes creating a mystical aura of importance based on the fact of their expense, their usefulness, and the impact of their contents on the culture.Those who feed the hunger of potential book-writers will mostly concentrate on teaching the trajectory of a story: the set-up, the challenges to the main character, the turning point, and a resolution.  We teach that in junior high.  The other, more philosophical questions, might be these considered here, which are a beginning stab at a realm of concepts I haven’t thought about earlier, but which explain a lot of my decisions.1. How do you create a mystical aura of importance?2.  How do you convince buyers this particular codex is worth money?3.  What is useful about your idea?4.  What impact can the contents have on the culture?I.  Most people (she said, trying not to sneer) live in a bubble of assumptions that are mostly inherited from family, school, culture, church and so on.  The preponderance of them are meant to sustain the status quo.  Most of the sources are institutional, ideas from organized bureaucracies that enforce themselves through these ideas/rules/conventions.  We’re told now that during gestation our brains begin to physically form “platforms” or skeletons or structures for the way they work in confronting what is outside the skin of the creature.  After birth, when the world is less cushioned, the confrontation with the world is far more confusing and the brain begins to “prune” — if not espalier — the ideas in the brain, quite literally dropping out the connections previously formed.When I was challenged to seek the roots of universal “religious” ideas and did a bit of research, it struck me that the “mystical” authors of the past described the binary experiences of the newborn: warm/cold, held/dropped, light/dark, nourished/starved, bliss/despair — all dyads and all very basic.  These concepts must have been saved from being “pruned” because they were so intense, early and primal.  But we rarely feel them with the intensity of an infant’s consuming emotion, as saints seem to.  My premise, untested, is that the sensations of mysticism is created when a human brain is pressed back into the primordial concepts or — the opposite way of escaping the bubble of conformity — forced out into a world that is as unknown as the one we met at birth.  A story or information set or experience that can do either of those things will be “felt” as mystical.  Not superstitious or magic or supernatural, but overwhelmingly Other.  Incomprehensible.One can evoke this through an unaccountable personality (Jesus, Buddha) or through a previously unknown but coherent social group, maybe even a culture.  Sometimes a landscape is enough.  There are periods of breakthrough in history — the invention of sea-going ships, penetrations of unknown worlds like the Amazon jungle or (if you leave humans out) the terrible depths of the sea, or cosmic outer space or the world of the tardigrades, imagined as microscopic “bears.”  This is entirely apart from the bureaucratic institutions of knowledge and obedience.  The element of transgression may be a path.  Forbidden books are more valuable.2.What makes certain books sell?  The mystery skill of “reading” combined with the endorsement of [...]



WINNING THE WEST

2017-11-04T04:51:36.745-06:00

How many men across the world are trying to channel John Wayne and ending up being Gordon Gecko.  I would estimate as many as are involved in resource extraction, particularly those in the West who see reservations set aside to protect culture as being rather stockpiles of water, grass, minerals, and uranium ore.  Oh, and scenery.The Fall auction season is underway and now the little hoards of art and artifacts that those resource-exploiters have accumulated are being dispersed.  This splendid shirt is going up for auction though Heritage Auctions  www.ha.com “Heritage Auctions is an auction house established in 1976 in Dallas, Texas. Heritage is the largest collectibles auctioneer in the world. In 2014, Heritage's total sales exceeded $969 million, a single year record for any collectibles firm.” Crow Beaded Hide War Shirt May Bring $40,000 at Heritage AuctionsA circa 1900 Crow Beaded Hide War Shirt once belonging to Chief Bell Rock is expected to sell for more than $40,000 in Ethnographic Art: American Indian, Pre-Columbian & Tribal Jewelry, a specialty auction conducted by Heritage Auctions Nov. 18 in Dallas. The rare war shirt is the pinnacle of the private collection of Houston businessman Kenneth S. "Bud" Adams, Jr., whose more than 100 lots makes up the cornerstone of the sale.Kenneth S. "Bud" Adams, Jr.Adams, a founder of the American Football League and owner of one of its charter teams, the Oilers/Titans franchise, remained close to his heritage as an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation.Entranced by the rich color and stunning visuals of the Southwest, his collection of American Indian art was just one expression of his enthusiasm for the material culture of his heritage.________http://www.mysanantonio.com/sports/nfl/article/Titans-owner-Bud-Adams-dies-at-90-4913423.php“A source said early indications are Adams' death was of natural causes, but the source stressed the "early indications" aspect.“Adams lived alone and was found in the office at his River Oaks home. He had not been seen since Saturday, Houston police at the home said.“HPD crime scene investigators came out to the Adams home to take photos, which police said is normal when a person dies in a home alone.”“In 1946, Adams started ADA Oil Company, which was a forerunner of the publicly-held American Stock Exchange-listed Adams Resources and Energy, Inc. (AE), an energy company engaged in the business of marketing crude oil, natural gas and petroleum products; tank truck transportation of liquid chemicals; and oil and gas exploration and production. Adams' other business interests included extensive farming and ranching in California and Texas, cattle feeding, real estate, automobile dealerships and leasing. He was a longtime collector of Western art and Native American artifacts.”_________So there’s your basic CSI Texas plot.  Adams was an enrolled “Indian”, born in Oklahoma where he starred in athletics.  Not all the resource moguls are or have been white, particularly around Oklahoma oil.  But he seems to have known a lot about wars.  Maybe one of the Wetzels could get a novel out of it.  I want to comment on this shirt, even though my expertise is limited.  Like art, artifacts must be accompanied by provenance and curating.  I googled, hoping to find a photo of Chief Bell Rock wearing the shirt.  I did come across photos of men in such shirts, but none was Bell Rock though there are photos of the man, and no garb exactly matched.  The trouble is that tribal clothes are sectional, esp in their or[...]



THINKING ABOUT BIRTHS

2017-11-03T04:30:44.097-06:00

One of the daily feeds to which I subscribe is “Stat News.”  https://www.statnews.com  “Reporting from the frontiers of health and medicine.”  It’s mostly for doctors, but not too technical to follow.  Always interesting, sometimes surprising, occasionally shocking.I’ve been watching for examples I could use to talk about the difference between approaching a subject or category through two different assumptions, drawing boundaries and considering everything inside that line, and the other one being starting from a center point and radiating out through the surrounding issues as far as could be followed.  This is a deep change in methods of processing ideas.  Most people don’t even realize they are using any “method.”  They think they’re just “thinking.”The first case from STAT starts with a bittersweet story about conjoined twins, who had to be separated in order to save one of them.  Otherwise both would die.  This was beautifully explored by the author in terms of communities: the parents, of course; the teams of surgeons and experts who conferred about what to do; and the religious advisors of the family.  It radiates out from two tiny girls into the larger world of human dilemmas.The story is not just factual, but includes the emotions of those who participated and observed this dilemma and its resolution, which was successful in a sense, since the surviving baby is healthy and happy.  The kicker at the end of the story is that the mother is pregnant again — this is taken as “happy,” but what if the factors that underlie the incomplete separation of the first conception are still in play?  Another question is about why the conjoined twins were not detected and aborted before birth.  But these are not addressed, nor are the larger research issues.  https://www.statnews.com/2017/11/01/conjoined-twins-separation/?utm_source=STAT+Newsletters&utm_campaign=2f1c89f2ce-Daily_Recap&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8cab1d7961-2f1c89f2ce-149456881The second story only seems similar on the surface because it’s about problematic births, this time “preemies,” babies born too soon and therefore incomplete.  This is a group with a defined boundary.  Of course, all human babies are born before they are complete because they must be small enough to get through the bone pelvis of an adult woman.  But the babies included in this study are inside the average gestation period of most babies, 280 days.  At present — with technology — babies can complete gestation in “isolettes” with tightly controlled support.  21 weeks and a few days is the earliest surviving baby recorded.  Before 24 weeks some doctors will refuse the effort to keep the infant alive.  24 weeks is the “boundary.”https://www.statnews.com/2017/11/01/preterm-birth-us-2016/?utm_source=STAT+Newsletters&utm_campaign=2f1c89f2ce-Daily_Recap&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8cab1d7961-2f1c89f2ce-149456881In the first place, Mother Nature will try to end a pregnancy if something has gone wrong, either with the baby or the mother.  In the second place, the struggle to survive under incomplete circumstances, like being outside the womb, can create additional malfunctions and limitations.  Many of the “Miracle Babies” that are celebrated as defeats against evil forces through the magic of modern medicine, are incomplete triumphs.  The babies may have deficits and handicaps that require lifelong support and impose cruel [...]



CAN WE SPEAK OF SEX WITHOUT INVITING IT?

2017-11-02T07:11:16.933-06:00

https://creators.vice.com/en_us/article/jpn5a4/soey-milk-hyperrealistic-oil-paintings-blossoming-young-womenHow safe is the longform blogging I do?  I expressed worries to a friend about the consequences of speaking frankly about sex, particularly the new understanding of fluid and culturally redefined physical relationships, nudists existing in the media alongside Sharia law that permits only eyes to be visible.  She responded in terms of literary censorship, “dirty books.”  And claimed she had not heard of persons or organizations that would censor an old woman’s writing.  (She’s Catholic, but kind of independent-minded.  I wonder what her sister the nun would say.)But I was thinking more about social safety where I live in small town Montana, where legislators physically throttle journalists. I wonder about my status in the contexts where I sometimes speak politically, which are indigenous people, environmental organizations, the UUA, and so on.  The possible consequences would vary from one context to another.  The UUA offends me with their looseness and “anything goes” tolerance.  Part of the reason I became disillusioned with the ministry was that some “LAY” people assumed I was available to them sexually.  A reverse Harvey Weinstein, it was the losers who felt their need should be honored.  Some even offered rewards.  Some ministers accepted, usually powerful men needing energy and reassurance from aspiring women young enough to be freeform in today’s hook-up way.  In my seminary years I was challenged because I was interpreted as resisting intimacy.  There was some truth to it.  I hoped to get rid of the issue, the way a priest might.  Having been married to a famous man made some curious about what one frankly called “what you’ve got.”  They seemed to consider women a “plug-and-play” accessory to their hard drive. The indigenous people can be far more strict, but in a New Age sort of way, esp the ones who are a little more mixed than they would like to admit.  Twilight wolves and eagles, talk of honor and floating love for the world and so on.  Underneath that runs the constant dark awareness that indigenous women are murdered, often in connection to sex and jealousy, and no one prosecutes or even investigates.  There are no means, no budgets, and the culture is too undefined and mobile to make much progress.  In the US there’s not much concern off the rez, though some note that over time hundreds disappear mysteriously ON the rez.  In Canada there’s growing outrage and increasing demonstrations.  As a white woman, I’m not in this story.  But I am.Sex is pretty irrelevant to the environmentalists, unless the subject is endangered species — grizzlies and all that.  They go for abstract reproduction and habitat.Over-incarceration, minority stigma, drugs, and deportation are all highly relevant to discussions of sex, since they provide so many opportunities for the strong on both sides of the bars to victimize the weaker or younger. I’m outside those worlds.  But I’m not.This weekend I went to the laundromat and found there a local tribal man drunk and inflated with big ideas about the pay-out he thinks he’ll get from the Eloise Cobell lawsuit.  The laundromat is for sale and he claimed he was going to buy it, had millions of dollars coming, and was swaggering with the thought of his new importance and entitlement to what he th[...]



POWERFULLY DESTRUCTIVE

2017-11-01T01:08:57.732-06:00

A dozen books containing Blackfeet myths exist, because to many people that’s what “Indian” stuff “is.”  Oral campfire tales for children.  Most people, even enrolled and rez-located people aren’t aware of the rather strict patterning and taboos that dictate when and who can tell the stories to preserve their gravitas.  In addition to the religious (in the strictest sense) classifying and regulating stories or even accounts of historical events, the “audience” of white people also has filters on their understanding, in the way that metaphor theory explains that what we have known in the past controls what we will know now and in future.  Then there is the personal point of view.This story has stayed with me, though when I looked this morning to see if I could find where I first read it, because it is so often apt, I didn’t find it in the pile of books.  The spine of the story is that long ago a new family moved in with one of the Blackfeet clans, but they were not socialized the same way.  Bigger and fiercer than rest of the community, they took up more and more space, were rude and aggressive to the point of fighting violently, and seized whatever food or objects they fancied.  People were hurt, even died, but were afraid to object.The clan leaders tried to counsel the newcomers, telling them Napi tales about what happened to such reckless people, but they wouldn’t listen.  Finally the Crazy Dogs, or a small volunteer group just like them, conferred among themselves and decided to take action.  When the unwanted group was gathered, the clan enforcers descended on them and killed them all.This is not very surprising and when it is done well, it’s a welcome story to happen, though not with death anymore.  (Mueller comes to mind.)  The story is told with emphasis on the seriousness of such an act and how unbalancing it is to the clan, first suffering the bad behavior and then knowing that it made them act on the terms of the invaders.  The story eases consciences by telling us that the new family was actually grizzly bears trying to be human.  (You remember that Russia is often styled as a bear.)The stories we like and repeat are the useful ones and sometimes the secretly true ones, in the way that Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of President Underwood as fluid sexually in terms of gender but rigid in all aspects of rapaciousness turns out to be really Spacey.  Will Netflix remove the BBC English version of “House of Cards”, which I don’t remember having the gay twist?  I predict that both versions of “HofC” will be watched more in the coming weeks than in the past year.  But from quite a different point of view.  Looking at the vid briefly, I see that the “gay” aspect is explicit as a witty buffoon separate from their “master politician.”  This was the expected form in 1990.  Sex winding in and out.  Mixing of murder with old wars.  No blacks, filmed before the splendid actors that have since developed.Righteous daughters (echoes of Antigone), and plenty of shadows of Shakespeare — inescapable in England the way that the American Confederacy overshadows everything in the States.  The basic line of the action was first outlined in an English book  Andrew Davies adapted the story from a novel written by Michael Dobbs, a former Chief of Staff at Conservative Party headquarters. Neville Teller also dramatised Dobbs's novel for BBC Worl[...]



PORN -- AT RISK?

2017-10-31T05:21:24.562-06:00

A childhood friend and I — both of us seventy-reaching-for-eighty — were talking about porn.  To her it was trash, always there, sliding along in the gutter.  My contention was that porn has been part of the mainstream for years now.  Also, a classic element of transgression and rebellion.  As well as a marker for elitist privilege.  She suggested that she’d read one of the “Fifty Shades” books and it was worthless, cheap and predictable.  Even boring.So I had to come up with some evidence and I didn’t think I’d be able to get her to read some of the things I encountered on my short literary tour through pornville.  Luckily, on You Tube there are perfume ads for men.  No need to read at all.These links are to Paco Rabanne, non-conformist.  Born Basque.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unobJ9zXicgThis first lovely fellow is starring in a “concept” ad.  The idea is that he’s fabulously attractive to women, at least the ones living in his walls, and that they are overwhelmed when he’s wearing only the perfume.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi-0yxiXYyAIn the next one the production is amazing.  I can’t even imagine how they figured out how to shoot it.  The storyboard alone must be a work of art.  You’d have to watch it many times to figure out what’s going on.  I don’t know whether that would be very erotic since you’d be on the wrong side of your brain.  Just go with it.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbbLHcZYDr0This last boy is so much like one of the Paris Cinematheque boys that it’s spooky.  He was at risk because people got obsessed with him, because he took advantage and had no boundaries, because he did one thing too dangerous and was killed by it.  But the message is joy, movement, and — check those eyes — the male exotic gaze."Boys at risk” don’t have to be starving, living on the street, getting beat up for money, catching deadly viruses to be at risk.  They might be as beautiful and invulnerable-seeming as these perfume models.  They still could be exposed to HIV, Hep C, STD’s.  They still might be emotionally agonized.  They still might be hooked on drugs.  They still might not be able to locate a home or maintain a relationship or even manage the considerable amounts of money they can make — while they’re young.  Being “at risk” doesn’t necessarily mean being deplorable or any one gender.It’s a matter of selling what you’ve got — youth, personality, flesh — by converting it into “merch,” something to sell.  I wonder whether these men were forced to fuck to get their jobs, like Weinstein starlets.  I wonder whether Weinstein himself was treated that way when he was young and pretty.  Now just passin’ it on.  Like frat hazing.  The whole culture revolves around sex power, with the military acting as a kind of “cargo cult”.The most interesting category of porn I found (it won’t be for everyone) is tentacle porn, not even about humans.  In graphic versions they’d have to be CGI.  Here’s a history.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue_KO_Xhi9oImagine the little kisses of suction cups all over your body!  A famous male prostitute used to go to the beach and kiss the sea anemones — not the big deep water floral ones on reefs, but the little round green ones on tidal rock.  They still pack an electrical jolt.Ther[...]



UNDERSTANDING FERAL BOYS

2017-10-30T04:30:47.103-06:00

Sorting cats by behavior because they all look pretty much the same except for coat color has its parallel for boys, who can also be sorted by behavior from compliant to defiant.  Like cats, boys can go from tame to feral and back again, and tame is seen as better by most — but not all — people.  This is mostly a survival-driven dynamic with the driver being the culture in most cases, using stigma as a source of control.  The “culture”— which is a made-up, imaginary concept with real consequences — tries to preserve itself by sacrificing persons they see as damaging, mostly because they are different.In the past we’ve seen this as psychological, a matter of ideas, maybe driven by invented unconscious forces (id, ego, thanatos).  Psychotherapy is meant to improve the situation by understanding it better.  But in recent years we’ve been able to see the organic, molecular, “real” consequences of behavior/ideas in terms of brain development, and have begun to understand how brain cells carry ideas, sometimes controlling them, making them persist even when unwanted.Right now the brain of Paddock, the Mandalay Bay shooter, is being dissected in the hopes of finding an explanation for his behavior, maybe a tumor or lesion.  But the function of the brain is not in its structure (parallel to the idea of organs) so much as its operation, its connectome — the tiny filaments that meet in electromagnetic connections that persist as both memory of experience and plan for new action.  The building and foundation of this brain process begins before birth and is crucially formed in the earliest years of life.I watch the news clips showing endless lines of people thrown out of their homes, their countries, family people of all ages and both genders, walking on dirt paths, carrying little more than something to sleep on and a plastic jug for water.  And the babies.  Always the naked babies clasped close so they ride their mother’s hip.  Even the children, still almost babies themselves, carry the babies.  What are the brains of those babies doing?  What little flickering sparks are moving around in brains without enough nutrients to grow properly?I look at the Victorian photos of street kids, mostly boys, filthy in short pants, newsboy caps, broken high-top shoes.  I look at contemporary photos of kids a little older, piled up together like street cats pillowing on each other in places street cats seek out.  How can they be anything but feral?  Not to each other -- just to the adult world.Centers of psychological study form in cities and prestige universities, and naturally center on the issues of people there.  In Manhattan there has been a critical mass of WWII displaced educated Jews who work with theoretical psych systematics, so that Woody Allen, famous for his constantly reviewed neuroticism, seems never to have had his treatment of women challenged, even when it exceeds normal boundaries.A more appealing center of thought is in Britain where Winnicott, Bowlby, Schore, Hughes and others have developed ideas about primary attachment so basic (beginning to form during gestation, even in the earliest months) and so broad (including every impingement from the mother’s molecular blood content as it varies when she deals with her dilemmas) that even large environmental forces (radioactivity, toxics, abuse, food insecurity) all make a difference.&[...]



CATS MUST BE SORTED BY BEHAVIOR

2017-10-29T06:56:16.646-06:00

Smudge and two of her three kittens"Satellite cats"  foto just days agoTo most people a “stray” cat is any they can’t attach to a specific owner or household — but it’s actually much more complicated than that.  The cat may not be a “stray” at all, but on it’s own mission in the world, connecting with humans only as convenient.Cats look pretty much the same except for coat color, so that’s the way they are sorted into categories.  Scientists try to find a genetic connection between coat color and temperament, with a little success.  Siamese cats have evolved a bit differently, being “boat cats.”  “Ginger/red/yellow” cats — shades along a spectrum of one color — seem pretty much connected to a good temperament.  “Good,” being one that is friendly to humans and a “bad” or “wild” temperament defined as resisting control or reacting to something mysterious humans don’t know about.Granny Mama Cat at least ten years ago.All these kittens have disappeared.I think GMC died not long ago.What’s useful to me is watching and pondering the cats around my household, a population that I’ve observed almost twenty years.  One part was pre-existing in the neighborhood, mostly white with gold patches; one part was the two pet kittens I acquired from a family in Great Falls and which lived a long time; and one part was imported by a neighbor who accidentally brought them home as stowaways when he bought an old truck.  The three categories were quite different.  But we all know that cats don’t vary in appearance as much as dogs do.A Portland co-worker who didn’t like cats used to say that they had all the brain-power of digital wristwatches.  He was thinking of the logical reasoning brain, but one of the distinctions of felines is that they have formidable autonomic nervous systems.  I’m told that another species with such a developed sympathetic/parasympathetic system is the grizzly bear, but not the black bear, which is more like a dog.  Cats and grizzes are emotional.  They don’t plan, though they are good at understanding puzzles or why would Skinner put them in puzzle boxes?  They react to experience and are shaped by it.  Once they form a habit, they are not easily discouraged from it.The nature and personality of cats are more a matter of memes than genes.  If genetics submits a faulty or vulnerable kitten, its mother may simply eat it.  (Or a tomcat like Uncle Shorty, who lives in the garage, will “recycle the protein” for her.  Once kittens are up and running around, Uncle Shorty becomes protective.)  The basic plan of cats is that of the predator and the success of the predation depends upon sensitivity to the environment.  “Where the birds are.”  If a human is part of the environment, that’s fine.  Looking at cats this way means considering them according to their behavior and habitat.  Categories may include:Household cats, in human homes, often with generative organs removed, which changes their hormonal patterns, though some instincts will remain, like that for nurturing kittens.  These can adapt to other animals: sometimes prey babies (rabbits, ducklings), or to toy animals if they are cuddly enough to be triggers.  Another surgically forced change is removal of claws because they can destroy household objects or inflict m[...]



AN ASPECT OF ABUSE: BOYS

2017-10-27T05:19:33.126-06:00

I read about aggression, for one thing, because of children being the victim of violence, esp. boys, who are somehow expected to just “take it.”This is probably the dorkiest and most laughable discussion of a forbidden sex subject that you’ll ever encounter.  But members of NA tribes know that the most emotional and dangerous internal subjects they have are often best understood by outsiders, so I hope that’s true for the “Nambla” controversy, which can be framed as abuse.  At least I couldn’t be more “outside” since I’m an old celibate woman who has far too much curiosity.  I can barely imagine a sex-inclusive relationship between a grown man and a boy.  Maybe when I read fiction, like “The Persian Boy.”  Safely historicized.  But this isn't just about Nambla.Partly I keep thinking about it because as a woman of 21, I made a decision (conscious) to join a man of 47.  I was the "boy."  It lasted ten years, through a legal marriage/divorce and his exploding success as a sculptor, a sort of celebrity pattern. (Lolita is not much of a shock these days.)  When I get to analyzing what happened, part of it is that my father had a concussion when I was about nine that subtly warped him.  He seemed normal but was always absent, often physically because he was a traveling man for work.  I’m saying I had “daddy hunger” and it makes me blush to type that.In a world where fathers are absent, dead, incarcerated, unknown, hooked, cruel, there must be a whole lot of sons out there with daddy hunger.  Maybe not biological but a deep longing for male attention and explanation of a crazy world.  Maybe a need for protection, an intercessor.More formally, when I read the accounts of men who have sex with boys, the adult men often have an “enlightenment” rational approach to the situation:  “Why not?  It’s just something you do.”  The emotional aspect is denied.  Even fathers might say, “Who better to initiate my son into the wonders of sex?”  (Of course, mothers sometimes take that attitude as well.  Remember “Souffle du Coeur”, the French film?)  But on the boy side, the understanding is going to be unintellectual, a physical response pulling sub-rational “felt concepts” into an identity that most likely is not ready to handle them, so likely overwhelmed, even traumatized, esp if the sex is mixed with violence or the more intense forms of love.  Developmental steps can be skipped with crippling effects.  A “rational” approach is likely not taking this into account, but neither is a purely emotional approach.As I read and queried old friends and watched vids and thought about gay sex, the one subject that was radioactive, a third rail, was this idea of sex between an older man and a boy-man.  Partly they were reacting to the subject itself and partly they seemed to be reacting to the absolute judgment of our culture that this was nothing less than pedophilia, which has become the most villainous possible offence.So where is the pushback, the safeguards, the depiction of the healthy way to go — even if it means blocking all asymmetrical relationships?  What happened to the innocence of Batman and Robin or Red Ryder and Little Beaver.Two countervailing forces may oppose the conviction of scandal that lately clings to male-to[...]